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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  September 13, 2011 8:30am-9:00am EDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. her son is called "my life, my son." >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where wal-mart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance
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supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, help tavis improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: trying to find the right word. i am pleased, honored, humbled, delighted, crazy to have jesse norman on this program tonight. the legendary soprano has been an inspirational voice in music for many years to come. she released her first new
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recording hall. it is a good one. if you are fortunate enough to be at the mall in pasadena, before we get to the conversation, we take you back to a classic performance from paris on the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of the french revolution. ♪
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tavis: i am tickled to have you here. >> i am tickled to be here. tavis: that is it, good night. that is all i wanted to hear, really. i introduced that clip by saying it was a classic performance. that is what i have to say and others have to say. i assume in your own mind, there are performances that you deemed classics, yes? >> i would include the singing of the national anthem for the two hundredth anniversary of the french revolution as being one of those moments where it was surreal. it was such an honor to be first of all asked by the president to sing the national anthem on this occasion. when i was asked of the year before it actually happened, i sang a great deal in france and they speak french, i wanted to make sure because i really was
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african american, he was very clear about what he wanted and i was very flattered. there have been so many wonderful occasions. it literally is true, there you are in first grade. someone says to you, we want you to sing at chapel on friday. i thought it meant with the choir. she said to sing by myself and sing really loudly. it was a segregated school, so we had 6000 kids from first grade to eighth grade. i went home and told my parents, i will sing at chapel on friday. i got to wear my sunday
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addressed to school and by sunday issues. i tried to keep that on all day. i had no idea how they are arranged to be alive. tavis: we were talking about the fact that in agusta, ga., a place that small could give us a james brown and jesse norman. >> growing up in such a protective and loving community is something that i really enjoyed. i love talking about it even though i grew up in the time of segregated schools, in brown vs. board of education can about what i was already in first grade. it was a wonderful time for studying into being made to understand what i was, what each child was.
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it was in stilled by our parents at home and buy our teachers that were so interested and insistent upon our learning. we were kept after school, it was not because we had done something they considered to have been wrong, but we needed to study the encyclopedia of bad further. or we need to understand the formation of clouds or what ever we were studying to get our mind wrapped around the ideas of algebra. i have great respect and great love of those people because they were there throughout my going out. anybody older than you could tell you what to do. you'd never said, you can say
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that to me, you're not my father. it just would not have happened. >> when i say mount calvary baptist church, what comes to mind? >> the minister that was there when i was a small child. he could sing, preach, bring the entire congregation to shouting. he had a daughter. her name is out of my mind. she was really something. she was a fabulous costs will singer, but the rev.'s daughter was also a break. she really was. it was a wonderful place to
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grow up. there were all kinds of activities for children. there was a wonderful person in charge of all of the children. elizabeth sought to is that we sat correctly and we understood about ourselves. and we had negro history week, that we knew their names and what they did. those were the kind of nurturing things missing from a lot of places these days. tavis: we have to talk about marion anderson. there is something i want to come back to and have you unpack for me. i recall reading a critic that was critical of you and
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reviewing the liner notes, he thought the you should have been given more credit. it appeared to me that he was complaining about the fact that he gave so much love to your gospel heritage given who do have become. i am only raising that to ask why it is and how is. that to this day, you are so adamant about getting all of the profs necessary to your gospel of bringing. >> and those on my roots. i sing in languages that i speak. when i am singing a schubert song, i know what every word means. and strauss, wagner, things like that. i had the pleasure and privilege
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of studying in the learning something that is -- you are 5 years old and hearing your grandmother in the kitchen, singing herself through the day. she would sing as my mother and her sisters would sing themselves through whatever occupation they're taking their time. it was clear to me, hundreds of songs were created by people that had to have some sort of relief. there had to be something that takes them from where they were to where they would prefer to be. and to ignore this part of my heritage would be heresy. and of course i sang dozens of songs of schubert and the operas
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and all of these things. i love them and i will do them at the drop of a hat. but i was not born austrian or german. my roots are from africa. and i do not have any reason for not wanting to celebrate that. and every time that i can, how like to mention it. just to keep people knowing exactly what is going on. my french is pretty good, but i am still african. >> what is the value, talking about children, the most multiracial and most ethnic america ever.
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>> it is expensive for the mind. the world is huge. there is some much in the world to experience. understanding that we have voices inside of us that can come out. composing, singing, being a fantastic saxophone player. to another person through the arts is something that is fantastic. even a person as gifted as einstein said that aside from the fact that he had the special talent for an absorbing knowledge, near the end of his
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life, he felt that the gift of fantasy had meant more to him. creativity, to be able to dream and think of things have meant more to him than his talent for absolving knowledge. if einstein could feel that way, a child needs to be given the opportunity to be creative and think of things and to express. s c two id that we stay in public education. it really is a shame. -- and see to it that we stay in public education. we hope to grow and be of service of more children. they have to audition, their parents have to sign a. they're going to make sure that
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the children practice at home what ever it is they are studying. painting, whenever they are doing. that they are also going to practice at home. this is true for any child, any person that comes across art as a part of education. because of the discipline that is needed, just to become better at something, if you practice it 20 times, it will be better than the first time. this act of discipline can be brought into all of the subjects. any study that had ever been done, having nothing to do with the socioeconomic status of that child's parents, those children exposed to arts education all the time, not some of the time,
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they keep doing it over and over. whether you're learning to play the piccolo or whether you're going to -- live in a country where education is being cut severely. what do you make of it? >> we have people that are terribly interested, a new singers and they are instrumental. they don't feel that this is a part of their life. that is something because that is something that is so easily avoided. those of us that pay taxes that pay for the public schools have to have more say when these cuts
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are done and our children are denied arts, education, or physical education. it is maddening. >> since you all went there for those that do believe in the arts that they are elitist, what is your response? >> but they aren't. many think about someone saying that i wasn't giving a view to all these wonderful composers whose music i had performed, we have to understand that in vienna, in 1800, the music of schubert was the popular music of the day. so the fact that we have something else nowadays that we call popular music and we want to put classical music in a corner someplace, that is our mistake. i have never agreed with it. i have been saying it for 30
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years. i have done one thing clever in my entire life. i was doing an interview after making my debut in berlin about 2324 years old or something. what kind of soprano are you? what is that? think iwell, i don't should have to say that now because i feel that pigeonholes are only comfortable for pigeons. and i still feel that way. and that we shouldn't put classical music over here and the blues over here someplace else, and jazz's over there someplace. and we have hot music in the middle. we need it all. it is all part of us, the world in which we live. >> of this begs the obvious question, whether or not jessye
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norman has an ipod and what's in her ipod? >> i am old fashioned and i don't mind it. i still use the cd player. tavis: i love that. >> i am not embarrassed at all to take my cd player out of my bag. and i take my cds with me and i listen to them whenever i can. and i don't have an ipod. i tried to explain to the younger people not to listen to my voice on an ipod, there is not enough bandwidth to listen to me. listen to me all the way. and they go on. >> what are you carrying around? >> a lot of jazz.
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coltrane somehwere in the -- somewhere in the corner. ella fitzgerald. odessa with me. she did so much with her music to change the minds of people. it is rather eclectic and i pay extra for my luggage from time to time, but i don't care. >> i have a matter of minutes left. i had better ask you why you are in southern california. >> it is such an honor, i have the honor of seeing the person -- the first performance of a brand new orchestra. with the economy being what it is, that a new arts organization can come into being. they're calling themselves
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musique. they are going to be players coming from all parts of southern california, and probably outside of california as far as i know. and there will be a smaller group. tavis: she is an icon around here. >> and we will delay program with all-american music. i am going to sing music from rodgers and hammerstein, other stuff. tavis: is it fun to have an evening where you can do a wide range? >> is challenging to show the difference between or among these composers, i should say. something that is home different from porgy and bess to
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rodgers and hammerstein. these wonderful ideas from wonderful composers, a lot are on tour these days. i want the world to understand that these were wonderful composers and that these songs taken out of the context of these musicals show that they were great composers. i feel the same as duke ellington that said there are only two kinds of music. good music and that other kind. some of that good music was written by and george gershwin, some of it was written by amadeus mozart. i have equal love for all of it. tavis: marion anderson. >> it was a privilege to be able to get to know her, to be able to sit with her, and i would ask
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her always, if you felt like talking, just tell me about being in sweden in 1935, what ever you talk about. she was so sweet. i said, this is not very interesting. tell me about the first time he met the king of norway. she was very humble in the way that she spoke about herself. she always spoke about herself in the third person, she always said "we." without the help of the almighty, she would not have had a performing live at all. "we" went to sweden. or "we" west to england and mclean victoria. -- met queen victoria. it is something i think about a
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great deal. tavis: i want to end this conversation, sadly, because i could talk for hours. i want to end on the point you make. how it is, after all the acclaim and success and accolade and love you have received around the world, used a humble -- you stay humble. how do you juxtapose those two things? reveling in the humanity of other people? >> think you for saying that, that is very kind. i think this is something that simply comes naturally for having grown up in the home and which i grew up. it was made very clear to me that everybody had the same potential if given the same opportunity. i know that i am blessed with the opportunity that has been
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presented to me, and it was instilled in me very early to be prepared for the opportunity. i work very hard, i am studying very late at night. since i know how much work i have to put into doing his job, it is not really sensible to be arrogant about it. it is something that takes a great deal of dedication, a great deal of determination, and it gives me such a joy that i just want to share it as much as i can. tavis: i have an ipod. jessie norman is on that ipod. i cannot just give them, but watched the show again as i travel around the world. this show is about to go on bmy
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ipod. if you are lucky enough to find a ticket, i am not giving you mind, on july 30, she will be performing in southern california. honored to have you on this program. that is our show, good night. until next time, keep the faith. ♪ >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at about health care next time. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard.
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it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where wal-mart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join help tavis improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >> be more. >> be more.
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